Facebook is taking the fight against fast-growing Chinese video app TikTok to one of the hottest markets in the world for downloads.

The U.S. social media giant plans to launch its short-video sharing app Lasso in India, most likely by May, Entrackr reported, citing two unidentified people familiar with the matter. Facebook, which launched Lasso in 2018, is looking to win back users that have turned to TikTok for their short videos.

TikTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, was the third-most downloaded non-gaming app for the first 10 months of 2019, with 614 million, according to Sensor Tower. That topped Facebook, which had 587 million downloads to place fourth.

India has become a main battlefield for social media as more of the population gains access to technology. Last year, Indians were responsible for about 45% of all global installs through October with 277.6 million downloads. The country also fueled TikTok’s growth, making up about 31% of the app’s unique installs from the App Store and Google Play, with 466.8 million.

“Facebook has to fight TikTok tooth and nail in India,” Entrackr quoted one of its sources saying.
The company didn’t respond to Entrackr about the report.

Both Facebook and TikTok have been hit by waves of criticism and controversy over the last year.

“Facebook has to fight TikTok tooth and nail in India.”

Facebook just this week put in place a new policy that doesn’t limit how political ads are targeted, leading critics to say it isn’t doing enough to keep false news and information from influencing elections. Its plans to introduce the Libra stablecoin, which the company’s says will help the world’s unbanked gain access to financial services, has been viewed with skepticism. CEO Mark Zuckerberg was grilled in U.S. congressional hearings, and Germany and France said they would ban Libra.

TikTok, meanwhile, is being investigated by the U.S. amid reports that the app’s Beijing-based teams have restricted videos deemed subversive or controversial by the Chinese government, including political speech. The U.S. Army is doing its own security assessment of the app as well. In India, TikTok faced a temporary ban last year after being accused of promoting child pornography. 

  • Facebook’s WhatsApp faces competition in India from Twitter-backed social media app ShareChat. Twitter led a $100 million funding round in ShareChat last summer. WhatsApp has 400 million active monthly users in India as of July, compared to Twitter’s 34.4 million users. 
  • Lasso was launched in the U.S. in 2018 and debuted in Mexico a year later.